Even though there are still a number of games yet to be played this season, it is an uncanny replay of last season. No Gilbert Arenas, low win total, a team without an identity. The Wizards have been treading water for much of the last three years in hopes that Arenas would triumphantly return from multiple knee surgeries to fulfill the $111 million contract he signed to stay with the team. In a show of true generosity, he turned down the $124 million they initially offered him in hopes that they'd sign some good free agents. He failed to consider that one of his stipulations was that the team retain Antawn Jamison, who cost a paltry $50 million before they even think of offering their max deal. In fact, when all was said and done, it came down to the Wizards trading dead money players and a few draft picks away just to make room for Arenas' sizable contract.
Arenas is done for the season and likely done in Washington, much like the last two years, only this time it is because of suspension and not injury. Suspension that could have been avoided had Arenas not reverted to childish behavior and tried to defend his actions with his goofballing ways. All that remains is a move to void Arenas' contract and the Wizards will have begun the long overdue rebuild. Players like Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and Jamison have become D.C. household names in the last four or five years.
I appreciate everything they brought to the Wizards, as do the rest of their fans. But sometimes you have to look past what familiarity has done for the team and toward what it can do for the team in the future. The group of players assembled over the last few years was good enough for a second round playoff appearance four years ago. It is time to move on. After talks had gone off and on for several weeks, the Wizards finally made the first move towards rebuilding. They sent Butler, Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to the Dallas Mavericks for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross and James Singleton.
While it may seem like the Wizards got the raw end of the deal, in fact they have made a huge first step towards rebuilding. As it stands now, only four players are officially contracted for next season, disregarding Arenas. Ross has a player option for next season, Howard has a team option and Randy Foye has a qualifying offer. It isn't a stretch to think that none of them suit up with the Wizards next season, though Foye has earned a some respect with his play. Among the players that are contracted for next season are JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Jamison. There is still time to make a few moves, but there is one scenario that could prove to be very interesting. By the way, McGee is a great athlete who has seen very little time in his career.
With Haywood gone, fans could be in for a treat if he can hit the ground running and doesn't lose much time to Gooden.
Let's say the Wizards make no other major changes and just play the season out to the tune of 20 to 30 wins. They win the draft lottery and get John Wall out of Kentucky. Wall runs the point, Young and Foye rotate between point and shooting guard positions, Jamison moves to the small forward spot, Blatche takes the power forward spot and McGee takes center. How dynamic of a line-up is that? I know, it is absurd to think the Wizards will stop at trading Butler and Haywood, but they could be an interesting team next season even if they don't win a whole lot.
The Thunder weren't winning much and now they have assembled an array of talent in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden. Guess who has a winning record now? It takes a few seasons of being at the bottom before you can rise to the top, and this season could be the first step towards rebuilding over the next few years to get those young talented players through the draft. If there is one thing that has hurt the Wizards more than anything it is the draft. Haywood was the only starter they had drafted and now he's gone. McGee hasn't seen much action, Blatche is an on again off again knucklehead, and Young is streaky at best. And Dominic McGuire has a nice spot at the end of the bench.
The best thing the Wizards can do is make moves now so they can be active when the deep free agent pool comes on the market after the season. Even if they don't get one of the biggest names out there, it'd be nice to see them make a run at someone. The Wizards do not have a future right now because they haven't drafted it. With the change in ownership still going through, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see the Wizards shift their management structure to a more traditional approach that utilizes the draft as well as other teams. I for one am still waiting for the team to redeem itself from Kwame Brown. The Wizards are not going to be good for the next few years. It is better to see a few familiar faces off to greener pastures than cling to the fantasies of what could have been. Butler meant a lot to the Wizards and the D.C. area alike and deserves nothing but the loudest of cheers whenever he steps on the court at the Verizon Center from now on. I hate to see him and Haywood go, but like any fan I want to see this team win more than anything else.